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September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776
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A Rare Second Temple Period Mikveh Discovered in Jerusalem

Israeli archaeologists love highway contractors. Excavation for new roads frequently digs up history, and this time they struck it rich, finding a rare mikveh from the late Second Temple Period.

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Archaeologist Benyamin Storchan standing at the bottom of the steps in the immersion chamber.

Photo Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority



Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have discovered a rare ritual bath (mikveh) dating from the late  Second Temple period, thanks to a planned road in the Kiryat Menachem neighborhood three miles west of the Old City in Jerusalem. “Numerous ritual baths have been excavated in Jerusalem in recent years, but the water supply system that we exposed in this excavation is unique and unusual, said  IAA excavation director Benyamin Storchan. The mikveh consists of an underground chamber entered by way of steps. The mikveh received the rainwater from three collecting basins that were hewn on the roof of the bath, and the pure water was conveyed inside the chamber through channels. The ritual baths known until now usually consist of a closed cavity that was supplied with rainwater conveyed from a small rock-cut pool located nearby. The complex that was exposed in the latest discovery is a more sophisticated and intricate system. The bath was apparently associated with a settlement in a picturesque valley outside of the Old City in  the Second Temple period. Presumably, due to the rainfall regime and arid conditions of the region, the inhabitants sought special techniques that would make it possible to store every drop of water. The mikveh conforms to all of the Jewish laws, such as collecting the water in it naturally without human contact, and ensuring that the water does not seep into the earth which is why the bath was treated with a special kind of plaster”. The neighborhood community has expressed great interest in the conservation of the mikveh, according to  Jerusalem district archaeologist Amit Re’em .The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Moriah Company, which is building the new road, are working to make the treasure a site for the benefit of the residents and visitors”, he added. After the mikveh went out of use, the site served as a quarry and the channels filled up with earth. During the 20th century, the immersion chamber was cleaned, a round opening was breached in its ceiling and it was used as a cistern but never discovered as an ancient mikveh until now.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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